Chandrayaan 2 – what can we learn from it?

So much information, so many emotions, people sat glued to their televisions in utter suspense…..eager to learn some news. And… oh no, a collective cry of disappointment. Many people were sad.

The country had lost its reputation in the list of superpowers.

The country had failed.

Do you agree? First let’s see what the hue and cry is about.

What and why

What was the mission about? Why was it important?

The first Indian mission to the moon, Chandrayaan 1 had provided evidence of water molecules on the moon. Chandrayaan 2 was to further study the extent of water distribution on the moon. The process was expected to increase our understanding of space and allow for more collaboration with other nations. In short, this was an exploratory mission designed to learn and instigate further missions.

A space mission involves more than a decade of groundwork, understanding the conditions through which the vehicle must operate,  simulations and finally, take-off. Sounds a bit like school work, doesn’t it? As students, you have the initial groundwork of understanding the subject. Knowing and managing the distractions that will certainly come in the way. Regular practise sessions and finally, the test.

Collaboration

Did you know that the orbiter wasn’t all Indian? The lander was originally supposed to be from Russia, but they backed out and finally, India went ahead with the design of Vikram Lander. Two instruments were from NASA. 

In a project of this size and complexity, expertise and resources are sought from across the world. Do you know why? Because no one person can claim to have all the knowledge. It’s as simple as that. 

Similarly, when you have a project to complete or face a subject that just won’t go into your head, collaborate. When concepts are fuzzy and you are losing the will to practise, collaborate. Usually collaboration works by finding someone who has understood and is good at teaching.

Resources are everywhere, don’t limit yourself to your friends and the few other people you know. It is possible that the person who doesn’t talk to you, ever, can actually teach you.

Keep trying

There have been many missions to the moon. A hundred and nine.

Only sixty-one have been successful. Only forty-six of the missions were meant to land on the moon and return samples of rock to earth. Twenty-one did.

The idea of success varies. At first, the question was, can we land a man on the moon? Yes! And that was success. For one country, the purpose was just to achieve flyby. Once the first question was answered, the question changed. With that, what constituted success changed.

What is success?

Success then is about identifying the question only you want to answer, nobody else.

As you grow older, let your mind travel. And don’t forget the basics, understand well, practise to perfection.

What does this tell us? There is a group that refuses to sit back and say, ‘Oh, they did it already. There is nothing left to be done.’ Instead it asks, ‘What can I do?’

They keep asking, exploring, seeking, finding answers, dropping some, fixing on others.

The scientists at ISRO are the best in the country. Why would a group of scientists put their effort into sending an orbiter to the moon? Failure can appear at any moment. There are far easier, less risky options available.

Do they do it to please someone at home? Because they will get a bigger car or house? Or are they motivated by being a part of an exercise that goes beyond themselves?

What is success for a student?

When you, as a student get tired of the study and regular practice or limit free time to learn for an immediate test, do you think of what you are doing and why?

Why should you streamline your day so that you can enjoy both work and play?

We often ask children what they would like to do when they grow up. Become an artist? Mathematician, maybe? Haven’t really thought so far ahead? Oh, then try medicine, or engineering. And the young person doesn’t like those options either.

Sometimes, the answer doesn’t lie there.

Would you like to ask instead, what question do I want to answer? And let your mind wander. The questions may arise from the world around us, from within a circle of people you know. Clouds, trees, birds, computer games, machines at home, anywhere. You might land up with many questions from different sources and decide, oh, that one is what really interests me.

So…..was Chandrayaan 2 a failure? What did we learn from it?

Let’s talk about what’s not working. The lander reached the ground at a higher than desirable speed. There may be some damage. It was tasked with directing and relaying the findings of the Pragyan rover, and it may not be able to play its part. The area it occupies offers harsh temperatures and a rocky terrain.

Let’s see what’s working. The orbiter is relaying high resolution images back to earth. Can it answer the question about water? Maybe it can. Maybe the evidence will be inconclusive.

Time will tell

So how can anyone label the mission a failure or success?

We must realise that the view of the world is limited. Celebrating only success takes away from all that we can learn from the journey.

This question will come up in your mind, am I successful? Maybe you cleared a tough exam but are unsure of the future, maybe you got accepted at a prestigious institute. The answer is  – time will tell. A lot depends on your adaptability to a challenging, unknown environment.

 

– Contributed by aspiring author, Shobna S. Iyer

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